Fire Starters

Boldness, clarity and wisdom for fundraising professionals

Your Brand is More Than Just Your Logo!

This week I’m honored to share this guest post by Elliot Cowan, Creative Director of Here’s My Chance. Elliot is the guest speaker for the November 19th Ignited Fundraising Community webinar,Your Brand is More Than Just Your Logo. Register here to join us. Guest post by Elliot Cowan We hear it all the time at HMC. We design a new logo for an organization and they show it to the rest of their team, saying, “HMC has created this amazing new brand for us! Isn’t it beautiful?” That’s when it gets awkward for me as a Creative Director; I find myself stopping the person mid-sentence and responding, “I’m sorry, but we’ve created your new logo. Your brand hasn’t even been touched yet.” You see. . . the title of this article is the truth. Most people need an education as to the difference between a logo and a brand. Let me try and differentiate between these important two aspects of your organization very quickly. Your Brand is a Feeling Your brand is the thought, the association, the feeling someone gets when they hear the name of your organization. Your brand is the first thing that pops into their head and comes out of their mouth. When you hear about a specific clothing company or car company, a feeling or thought about them crosses your mind (“good value,” “safety,” “innovative,” etc.) That is their brand. When people speak about your organization at fundraising events, or when your annual appeal drops through their mailbox, what’s the first thing you want them to think of? Do you want them to think “dependable”...

Making a Difference – Quilts of Valor Honoring Veterans

Do you ever wonder if your work makes a significant difference? I do. I spend the year coaching, training, traveling, talking with tons of wonderful people. But sometimes I wonder, does what I do help? Do people take the suggestions or coaching advice I share and do something with it that truly helps others? My passion is to help nonprofit staff and board members to share stories of their work. Earlier this year I delivered a webinar for Arts Midwest and their Arts Lab program. We had 50+ people signed-in online and more participating in the webinar by sitting at computers and watching in groups. One attendee Val Ruff the Executive Director of the Marshall County Arts & Cultural Alliance had invited nonprofit organizations from her community in Iowa to listen in to my storytelling training webinar. The hour-long session was packed with coaching advice and examples of stories about real people whose lives are different because a nonprofit organization provided something important. Sitting in Val’s office was a woman who got “lit up” by what I had to teach that day. Linda Cooper, a quilting guild member, is a part of a very special project. Each year Linda and many other dedicated quilters in her community create handmade quilts for veterans returning from service. After learning some tips on how to share powerful stories, Linda rushed out of the webinar and sat down to draft their “story.” Then she took that story, visited local businesses, and shared it with as many people as would listen. Linda’s enthusiasm and storytelling prowess along with the donations she gathered from local...

Tips & Tools to Help Busy Nonprofits Get Things Done

At the beginning of 2015 I told you how I was going to work on changing my personal story and make 2015 the year of being enough. As the year is coming to a close I’m proud to say I’ve been making progress. AND each week I continue to look for ways to work less and be more efficient. Back in January, I shared with you two of my favorite tools for getting a handle on all there is to do. I continue to use the heck out of these tools and they continue to provide ease and organization in my busy life. As we head into the end of the year, and some of the busiest days for all of us in the social sector I’ve got a few more free tools you can use to boost your productivity. Trello This is a handy, flexible, visual, and FREE app you can use to keep your projects organized. It sounds so simple, but Trello lets you do a lot and makes it easy for you and your team to stay on top of your endless To Do lists. I recently used Trello with my 15 year-old niece on her school project. She’d asked for some mentoring on a pretty elaborate project. Trello kept us both organized and made our collaboration quite fun. Hootsuite Social media. Boy, I love it, but sometimes it feels like a bucket of worms I can’t quite get my arms around. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram… the list is ever-growing and never-ending. How do you manage to stay on top of it all? For me, it’s Hootsuite....

Frequently Asked Questions About Sharing Stories Part II

Here is the last of the three questions I get asked regularly about how to share stories. You can see the answers to the first two questions here. This is an excerpt from Q & A portion of the free webinar I recently delivered for Q3. Catherine asks: “As an international organization, a staff who would be organizing and dispersing the stories are thousands of miles away from our beneficiaries.” LJ: I love this question. I get asked this a lot. How do we share the stories that happen so far away? First: You’ll need to do a little training with your on-the-ground staff: a) Give them some questions to help them gather these powerful stories. The questions to ask are, how do you feel today when you come to the school or the whatever it is? Why do you like coming here? How do you feel when you go home at night? Or how did you feel before you came here? You want to ask how they feel, you don’t want to ask them to tell you a story. And what do you feel for the future of your country or your community? What are the feeling words that you’re listening for? You want to be listening for words that are descriptive, visual, words that have me feel some empathy. It might be I feel so isolated or I feel ashamed or now I feel proud and I feel safe for the first time. So you ask how people feel. That will make a big difference in the kind of feedback you get from people you’re talking...

Frequently Asked Questions About Sharing Stories Part I

Here are two of three questions I get asked regularly about how to share stories. This is an excerpt from Q & A portion of the free webinar I recently delivered for Next week, I’ll share with you the often asked third question. Stay tuned! Q1. Collin asked: “Can video still have the same impact at an outdoor event where the lights can’t go down?” LJ: I have to tell you the truth, Collin, it won’t. But what can, is sending me the clip afterwards. Send me the clip to watch on my phone, have it ready, collect my cell phone number, my mobile phone number and say, “When you get home tonight, re-watch this video” and make sure that you’ve got the URL for where to make a contribution at the end of that video. Because when I watch that powerful video, in the quiet, in the silence of my own home, or my car or wherever I am, that’s when the connection can happen. Q2 Robert asks: It seems like tangible things like clean water sell better than evangelism ministry. LJ: Not at all Robert. Each of you has your OWN community. You’re not looking for everyone on the planet to give to you. The truth is, everyone on the planet is not your audience. Ask yourselves, “who is our audience?” These are the people whose passion is the same as yours. An organization that I love is the Pangea World Theater and I love them not for their theater so much, because I haven’t seen many of their shows. I love them because Dipanker and...

Breaking Down Giving Barriers

Keeping up with the tsunami of information available to help do our jobs better can be a never-ending adventure. One of the reasons I write my Fire Starters blog is to help keep a lookout for excellent resources for you. A recent post from the always wise, Sarah Durham, Principal and Founder at Big Duck is one to take time to read:  The 5 types of donors you must inspire with your year-end appeal. Sarah shares a short, powerful recap of the “Money for Good” report from Camber Collective. The important information for YOU is the opportunity you have with your fall fundraising to reach some key donor segments. The Money For Good ($FG) 2015 report shares “the voice of the donor in philanthropic giving.” I was intrigued about their discussion and break down of donors into these five categories or segments: Contented Benefactors Busy Idealists Cautious Strivers Unaware Potentials Unengaged Critics Using clear, bold communication is part of my own tool box when it comes to fundraising. And as you can see by the graphic shared here, $FG 2015 cuts through some of the paralysis you might feel about how to best reach key donor segments. With their data and donor feedback you get some clear direction on where to spend time with your communications. An exciting thing I learned from the report is the biggest opportunity for behavior change is with your donors in the middle three segments. What to do? Take a quick review of your current donors in your database and see how many you have in each of the five segments. Read through the relevant sections of...

Please Talk About Money

Money talks, or so it’s said. My question to you is HOW does your organization talk about the money you require to save or change peoples’ lives? Do you shy away from talking about costs, annual fundraising goals OR do you boldly and transparently share updates throughout the year? As you are drafting your fall appeal or holding yet another fundraising event, here’s an important reminder: Talking about the money your important work requires causes people to GIVE YOU MORE money. This is the key! I recently learned that during a tour of a domestic violence shelter in Indiana, Hollywood actor Jesse Eisenberg learned of their double mortgages. He was inspired to help and made a $100,000 matching gift. Okay, that’s inspiring to me. A tour led to a $100,000 contribution. And a matching gift at that. The lesson: Letting your community know that your organization does amazing work is just one component of successful fundraising communication. Letting your community know what the costs are of activities like keeping water clean, mentoring children, changing laws, or helping veterans is the second and equally important component. I call this Advanced Storytelling. The practice of combining or blending your people and money stories takes practice AND a desire to provide information that may cause people to ask questions. That’s the point. When you are asked WHY it costs so much to build a ramp for Gloria, the sweet, homebound, elderly grandmother, you can be sure your listeners or readers are paying attention. If they want to know more, you’ve made the first step in building a committed relationship that may ultimately...

Are You Ready for Thanks Giving?

No, not the turkey and stuffing event. I’m talking about giving thanks for all of the actions your supporters are taking in the final quarter of 2015; the “givingest” time of year. Are you ready with creative, fun, this-will-get-noticed recognition, that allows your supporters to feel great when they: Give their time at your fall fundraising event Give their financial support due to your event or your appeal Attend yet another committee or board meeting Invite others to attend your fun annual meeting or building tour Share their “stuff” for your auction Or?? NOW is the time to take out your usual thank you letter and revamp it. Write using language that gets read and feels like you are talking just to ME, the reader. And, please, make sure your thank you process (phone call, letter, or in-person thank you) actually references how my gift of time or dollars or whatever I gave makes a difference to a real person. For inspiration check out the September Nonprofit Blog Carnival for some excellent ways to give thanks…in fact some of the best ideas I’ve seen on this topic! I dug around and found a few more quick reads to get your creative juices flowing. One from the Nonprofit Marketing Guide and a few from my own Fire Starters archives: 9 Clever Ways to Thank Your Donors Tips for Making Authentic, Meaningful Donor Thank You Calls Donor Thank You’s: 5 Simple Things to Do to Cause Deeper Engagement With Your Supporters How to Cause Your Donors to Feel Like...

Please Don’t Make it All About You

I believe fundraising is fulfilling the aspirations of your supporters. And then I read the copy in fundraising letters or hear speeches at fundraising events. I’m so disappointed to find the speaker or writer drone on about the organization: We did, we want, we need. The missing piece in nonprofit communications, especially when you want to share powerful stories, is to make your communication about THEM. Your listeners. Your readers. Your donors. Your volunteers. Every. Word. Choice. You. Make. Matters. To show you what I mean, here’s an excerpt from Module 2 of my Complete Storytelling System: I know you are moving at a speed faster than light to get your work done. I also know you don’t always have time to attend events or workshops to new tools and techniques. So, I’ve put what I know about nonprofit communications and sharing stories into an easy-to-follow storytelling training course. Used by hundreds, it’s helping people like YOU to raise more money. Even millions for some who follow the steps closely. I want to make sure you have all the tools you need to engage your board, raise more money and tell powerful stories that truly knock-their-socks-off! Special Limited Time Offer: Invest in the System (at just $97 for all 9 Modules!) and I’ll gift you with 3 FREE months of membership in my Ignited Fundraising Community. (Monthly webinars, live monthly coaching from me, and access to all 50 previously recorded webinars) An additional $105 value.)...

Knock-Their-Socks-Off Storytelling

The truth is sharing your stories doesn’t have to be hard or take a long time. BUT you DO have to keep in mind what makes stories truly connect with people. The most important thing stories can do is to create a feeling of EMPATHY. The definition of empathy from Merriam-Webster is: :the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s Unfortunately, most often I watch people write or tell stories about their clients or donors or their volunteers and what I end up feeling is sympathy; a little sorry for them. That is NOT the kind of storytelling I teach. In fact, that is not the kind of storytelling that works. As you draft your fall appeals or your fundraising email campaign remember this: Sympathy creates distance. Empathy creates connections and feelings of understanding. Here’s a simple example: Sympathy: It was a horrific loss for Anna when her house completely burned in the fires in California. Empathy: When Anna’s 6 year-old son Adam asked for a baby picture for a school project she teared up and had to say with a painful heart, “I’m sorry honey, all of our pictures burned in the fire last year.” ____________ I’d love to see YOUR examples of shifting the language from sympathy to empathy! Share in the comments...

Subscribe to Fire Starters

To receive Fire Starters blog directly in your inbox each week, enter your email here:

Connect with Lori




Like Lori on Facebook

join me on facebook




Click here for free weekly movies to help you fundraise